For regular followers of Writing in Shadows – if I still have any after such a long hiatus – you will know I’m currently working on my first Epic Fantasy novel Darkened North. Darkened North is the first in a planned 3 book series set in a medieval hybrid world, bringing together various mythologies and myths to tell the story of a Gifted Princess, a slave and the son of a fertiliser inventor and their battles and adventures in a war of the Gods.
Over the past few months I’ve been doing a 6 month Novel Writing Workshop at the Australian Writers’ Centre with acclaimed, award-winning Australian novelist Pamela Freeman. The group is very much self directed, with a portion of each week given to discussing submissions from the group from the novels we are writing. (sidenote: This fantastic course is now available online, so aspiring writers from all over the world can take advantage of this great opportunity! And no I’ve not been paid to say that, I just love what this course has done for me and my writing.)
Recently I was going through the feedback on my one of my submissions when I noticed a note from Pamela mentioning that I didn’t really discuss much in the way of what my characters were wearing, and how important that was for world-building in a fantasy novel. I went back and had a bit of a re-read and came to the conclusion; all my characters are currently nudists.
While I discuss hair and eyes, lips and noses there is minimal reference to the costumes my characters are wearing. When I noticed that I started to make a concerted effort in newly written chapters to describe clothing. The first opportunity I had to do that was during a parade through the centre of one of the main locations. Describing the Dukes Solider’s, his dancing boys and girls and the members of the High Priestess’ entourage gave me a clear indication of what Pamela meant.
It also opened up a new area of research. By doing your preliminary research – something I’m not overly good at – and using your characters clothing as a descriptor, much as the way they look gives the reader insights into their lives in a way that doesn’t require you to spell it out. One new character who has appeared after this moment of enlightenment reads as much more developed than one of the main characters, despite the honest fact I have no idea who she is. She just turned up.
She appears developed purely through her descriptions. By describing the way she is dressed as much as the way she looks and stands, she comes across as much more “real” than any of the others.
Your fashion sense needs improving
So I guess that means I’ll have to set up myself up as Epic Fantasy’s version of Anna Wintour when I come to editing the book. At least I’ve got a handle on that for the upcoming chapters so it’s really only going to be about a third of the novel where everyone is running in the nuddy.
Setting the scene, building the world is so much more intricate than I had expected. This is my first attempt at writing fantasy, or a long-form novel for that matter. Previously I’d written a couple of screenplays, so I’ll need to remember that setting the scene in a novel is just as important – if not more so – as it is when you write a screenplay.
Do you have any “blind spots” when it comes to writing that leave you scratching your head and thinking “huh?” Feel free to comment down below. I’m always on the look out for more areas where I have almost no idea what I’m doing.